Dear Volunteers and Friends,
I pray this finds you happy and well during these strange and uncertain times. During this ordinary time of our liturgical year, I am reminded, it is in the ordinary that we experience the extraordinary. I pray that you may have the grace and peace to experience the extraordinary throughout the longest season of the year.
August 28 is the feast day of St. Augustine. When visiting the imprisoned and walking alongside those who are returning, I am often reminded of St. Augustine's famous passage from Confessions, "You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” While studying theology at Aquinas College over 20 years ago, this passage had a profound impact on me and the path I chose to travel. Those who are incarcerated, like us, are often lost, broken and searching for a new path, a new way. Their souls are restless. You bring them peace because you bring them Jesus! You choose to encounter them along their journey and "in doing so" transform them and their way. Thank you!
Although we are not permitted to resume services at this time, we have been informed that we can write letters to the incarcerated. Please consider writing letters of hope, encouragement and prayer to our incarcerated brothers who attend our Catholic services in prison. Please note these letters may not be mailed directly from you, as this would be a violation of your volunteer terms. Our office will mail them on your behalf to the Chaplain.
If you would like to write letters to the men who attend your service, please mail them to me. Do not include your name on the letter, sign it as a "Catholic Services Volunteer." Please include the name of the facility the letters need to be mailed to either on the envelope or a note inside. Martha and I will gather and sort all letters received and mail them to the appropriate facility chaplain for distribution. If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know.
Until we can resume services, we remain in communication with all our facilities and their chaplains and continue to send our incarcerated Catholic brothers and sisters the resources needed to help them grow in their faith while they are unable to receive the sacraments.
Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) and COVID-19
For current information on the Michigan Department of Corrections' response to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within our Michigan Correctional Facilities, click here. There have been 4,312 prisoner confirmed cases and 68 prisoner deaths from COVID-19. In addition, there have been three corrections staff who have lost their lives to the coronavirus. Currently, we have 400 confirmed prisoner cases within the six MDOC prisons located in the Diocese of Grand Rapids. Muskegon Correctional (MCF) has 395 of those cases. Bellamy Creek, Carson City, Ionia Correctional and Michigan Reformatory are the other facilities that have individuals who tested positive. Continue to keep all of our facilities in your prayers, particular MCF.
Weekly Rosary for the Incarcerated during COVID-19
We continue to pray a weekly rosary for our incarcerated brothers and sisters and their families during this pandemic. We pray our rosary Friday mornings, but pray yours at a time that works well for you. If you have particular intentions you would like us to pray for, please email us those by Thursday afternoon and we will be sure to include those in our weekly rosary. Watch for our email reminders to pray with us Friday mornings which include our weekly intentions. You may also follow our Facebook Page to receive this and other important information.
Assembly 2020: Encounter
For the past several years, the Office of Pastoral Services has hosted the Parish Ministry and Catechetical Conference at West Catholic High School. It has been a wonderful opportunity to gather with our Bishop to pray, learn and connect with other Catholics from all parts of the diocese. This year, we are excited to announce that the Conference will be evolving into its next iteration! Diocesan Assembly 2020 will cultivate opportunities to encounter Jesus Christ and assist Catholics in renewing their zeal and commitment for encouraging all to know, love, and serve Jesus and the Church. The entire Diocesan Assembly will be live streamed from Cathedral Square Center and presented in both English and Spanish. It will be a virtual day of prayer and learning from any location with a computer, phone or tablet.
To learn more and to register for this free event click here.
Restoring, Reconciling and Healing Prayer Service
On Saturday, Oct. 3, during Respect Life Month, we will hold our 3rd Annual Ecumenical Prayer Service. Bishop Walkowiak will preside at the service for:
- those who are incarcerated and their relatives
- prison and jail volunteers and chaplains
- employees of correctional facilities
- associations that offer assistance to our prisons and jails
- victims of crimes and their families
For more information and to register to attend, click here
Civilize It Pledge
Join us in taking the Civilize It pledge. As Catholics, we have a long tradition of engagement in the political process as a means of putting our faith into action. We are called to bring the best of ourselves and our faith to the public square—and yet today, many shy away from such involvement because our national and local conversations are filled with vitriol and harsh language, often directed at people themselves.
When personal attacks replace honest debate, no one wins. This kind of attack, no matter the reason, only serves to further divide our communities. As Catholics, we must model a better way. Join the Civilize It campaign by taking the pledge as a way to promote civility, love our neighbors, and build community. Civilize It is about making room in your heart for those with whom you disagree. We are called to recognize that each one of us is a beloved child of God and to respond in love to that reality. Civilize It is a non-partisan call to focus on the dignity of all people, even when we disagree, and to put faith in action by bearing witness to a better way forward. Commit to dignity beyond the debate. Visit: http://CivilizeIt.org to learn more and take the pledge to #CivilizeIt with civility, clarity, and compassion this election year.
Election Year Guidelines
We encourage all Catholics to evaluate candidate positions and form your conscience before voting. Please take a moment to review Faithful Citizenship resources before casting your vote.
Christmas Drive 2020
Although it is only August, we are beginning to prepare for our annual Christmas Drive. This year, we will collect new white tube or crew socks, and new plastic reading glasses. We will not collect hygiene items.The donations were so large last year, we have enough hygiene items to donate and place in this year's Christmas packages. You may share this Christmas Drive Flyer with your parish staff at any time you deem appropriate. If you would like printed copies, contact me and I will be happy to mail them to you. Please deliver all donations to Cathedral Square no later than Friday, December 11.
Please remember to read this newsletter completely. Important information and resources are included in the team updates and newsletter inserts.
May the peace, joy, and love of Christ live in your heart today and always,
Director, Prison and Jail Ministry